Monday, August 2, 2021

BEQ 4:14 (Matthew) 


LAT 2:14 (Stella) 


NYT untimed (Jenni) 


The New Yorker 31:14 (Nina) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today untimed (malaika) 


WSJ 4:03 (Jim P) 


Kyra Wilson’s New York Times puzzle —Jenni’s write-up

Now I have Bob Seger in my head. I figured out the theme early on, and I found the revealer less than satisfying.

The theme answers:

New York Times, August 2, 2021, #0802, Kyra Wilson, solution grid

  • 20a [Service offered by Dropbox] is CLOUD STORAGE.
  • 29a [Firefly] is a LIGHTNING BUG.
  • 43a [Classic Corvette alternatives] are THUNDERBIRDS.

and the revealer at 52a is [What precedes a storm…or a hint to 20-, 29- or 43-Across]: WEATHER FRONT. I’m not crazy about this answer. The obsessive Weather Channel-watcher in my house says “front,” not “weather front.” Is this a thing people say? I like the cloud/lightning/thunder trio much better than the anticlimactic revealer.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that NERO said “What an artist the world is losing in me!” before he died. Then again, it would have been difficult for him to say it after he died.

And, since I teased it up top:

Joe Schewe’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

LAT 8/2/21 by Joe Schewe

LAT 8/2/21 by Joe Schewe

It’s a musical Monday in the LAT, with the revealer at 60D [Distinguished … and what 17-, 24-, and 44-Across literally are?] giving us NOTEWORTHY. That is, the first half of each theme phrase or compound word (FLAT, SHARP, and NATURAL, respectively) can be used as a modifier for a musical note:

  • 17A [Space-saving TV display] is a FLAT SCREEN.
  • 27A [Deadeye] is a SHARPSHOOTER.
  • 44A [Cotton, wool, or silk] is a NATURAL FIBER.

This is certainly not the first time I’ve seen FLAT, SHARP, and NATURAL as the basis of a theme, so if you’re going to do it, I think you’ve got to pick really fun theme entries. These are not hitting the mark (hitting all the high notes?) for me. I’d love to see more evocative themers than these.

Perhaps super-sparkly fill could have saved it, which I’m sorry to say this puzzle doesn’t have. The NW corner with its crosswordese-y plurals of AMFMS, BOLAS, and ENTS crossing the tough MOEN and MARSHA is the most obvious example. How about cluing that last as Stonewall icon MARSHA P. Johnson, who I think is better remembered than an actress from a 1977 movie? JAPES crossing PLAT, ORCA, ESTOP, ELAN, AGRA TOLE, ONE A.

Also, although BREWER and DIRK are fine entries, I’d sure love to retire “[sports league abbreviation]er” from puzzles permanently, so “MLBer” and “NBAer” in the clues for 46D and 62A, respectively, annoyed me.

So I’m sorry to give this puzzle a “meh.”

Seth Abel’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Smooth Operator”—Jim P’s review

(Note: I’m very distracted while blogging this since I’m watching USA vs. Italy in women’s volleyball.)

Theme: CLOSE SHAVE (59a, [Near miss, and what the ends of 17-, 27- and 44-Across may provide]).

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Smooth Operator” · Seth Abel · Mon., 8.2.21

  • 17a. [Sweepingly general] BROAD BRUSH.
  • 27a. [Sweet frosting choice] BUTTER CREAM.
  • 44a. [Principle stating the simplest explanation is preferable] OCCAM’S RAZOR.

It doesn’t feel right to call shaving cream just “cream,” so that detracts from the effectiveness of the theme for me.

Having only four theme answers of 11-letters or less leaves room for smooth fill and fun long entries, and we have a good set here with SEA TURTLE, LEGAL FEES, “IS IT TRUE?,” TOSTADA, and KING LEAR.

DYERS and SSR are at the other end of the spectrum, but they come right at the end of the solve in the SE corner, and they’re easily blown past.

The only clues I’ll note are part of a “mini”-theme in the NW corner—[Even a little], [Tiny bits], and [Tiniest bit]. I wondered if they were part of the theme at first, so I found this distracting.

The theme feels light and not entirely on target. Smooth fill, though. 3.3 stars.

And oh hey, the US women just won. But it was a CLOSE SHAVE.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday crossword—Matthew’s review

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s blog crossword – Themeless Monday solution – 08-02-2021

Fun-looking grid design from BEQ today: two grid-spanners and two long downs bracket an interrupted stairstack (vertically and horizontally) and provide access to the corners, two of which are substantially more connected than the others.

I moved nicely through my solve largely on the back of those 15s: AND YET HERE WE ARE (23a – [“Don’t know how it turned out this way”]) and SOCCER EQUIPMENT (35a – [Arsenal gear, e.g.]). That’s Arsenal of the English Premier League and Women’s Super League, with a disguised capital in the clue. On the former, I’ve really grown to appreciate entries like these – Robyn Weintraub and Tim Croce come to mind – and it’s such a highlight when the clue is also a spoken phrase that matches the entry in tone/formality/whatever other pragmatics, as I believe this one does.

The other area I’ll highlight before bullets is the SE corner, which was brutal for me, especially when I’m running late this morning. BELA Schick (45d – [Shick who founded the Schick test for diptheria.]) is new to me, and while I know the word BOLUS (45a – [Horse pill, perhaps]), I haven’t seen it in the veterinary sense before. ZEDONK is a colorful entry; ENOUNCE a little less so for my money.


  • 14a- [Solanas who shot Andy Warhole] VALERIE. This was new to me even though we JUST had the SCUM Manifesto in a puzzle. There’s an indication of how my lifelong reading list from puzzles is going.
  • 32a- [Luxury hotel letters] ITT. If you say so. Even googling “ITT Hotels” doesn’t give me a clear sense of what this is, other than an umbrella company. Seems a little obscure when there are certainly other cluing options.
  • 44a- [Tim ____ (cybersecurity expert on “NCIS”] MCGEE. We did a binge of NCIS in my household a few months ago. I had horrible nightmares because I am a relatively squeamish person. But more to the point, McGee’s career trajectory from tech guy/lab assistant to field agent felt odd to me.
  • 16d- [Actress Zosia] MAMET. United States of Tara, Mad Men, Girls, Parenthood. My lifetime reading list contribution from this puzzle. All things I mean to watch and just haven’t yet.

Rafael Musa’s USA Today puzzle– malaika’s write-up

Title: Urbanization

Theme: The last word of each of the theme answers is a municipality. It’s a nice touch that they appear in ascending order of size.

  • 16A: IT TAKES A VILLAGE: “We couldn’t have done this without everyone’s help!”
  • 33A: GOING TO TOWN: Doing something enthusiastically
  • 52A: SEX AND THE CITY: HBO show discussed on the podcast “Couldn’t Help but Wonder”

Rafael Musa’s August 2, 2021 USA Today puzzle

This grid has mirror symmetry to accommodate theme answers that are of different lengths. I’ve recently made a couple of mirror symmetry grids and am now intimately familiar with how constrained the layouts can be.

Rafa did a great job with the mid-length / longer fill in this. I loved:

  • 17D: KIMCHI: Jigae ingredient
  • 23D: ENCODE: Convert cryptographically
  • 31D: A GOOD DEAL: Plenty
  • 33D: GAP YEARS: They can be taken between high school and college
  • 37D: HOT SPOT: You can use one to share your internet connection

I always appreciate a call-out to my (and Rafa’s) favorite artist: DEBUT (45A) was clued as “The album ‘Taylor Swift’ for Taylor Swift.”

The Japanese noodle crossword struggle (UDON vs SOBA) is the same as the Indian flatbread crossword struggle (ROTI vs NAAN). You just need to get one cross before it can be filled in.

Christina Iverson’s Universal crossword, “Two Ee-sy” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 8/2/21 • Mon • “Two Ee-sy” • Iverson • solution • 20210802

Very briefly today. Phrases that contain a one-syllable word whose only vowel is E, then that E is doubled.

  • 17a. [Misplace one of the red root vegetables] LOSE A BEET (lose a bet).
  • 29a. [What teas may do on a hot day?] STEEP OUTSIDE (step outside).
  • 44a. [Belief in doing things before they’re cool] HIPSTER CREED (hipster cred). Cred and creed share the same etymological root.
  • 61a. [Club for marshmallow chick lovers?] PEEP SQUAD (pep squad). >shudder<

Briefly continuing:

  • 22d [Place for a heated discussion?] SAUNA. Fun clue.
  • 9d [Rock formed by lava] BASALT, 46d [Spews lava, say] ERUPTS. Hmm, should I sharer a Magma song?
  • 51d [Earn an Olympic prize] MEDAL. Did you hear about the men’s high jumpers?
  • 56d [Regular guy?] BEAU. ’nother very good clue.
  • 16a [Month whose name comes from the Latin for “to open”] APRIL. Did not know this; don’t have time to investigate the reason.

Got to peel out.

Anna Shechtman’s New Yorker puzzle –– Nina’s writeup

Nice New Yorker puzzle this morning. The long fill was great, and the grid felt relatively cohesive. The corners got a bit gluey, but overall didn’t give me too much trouble.

I felt that several of the punny clues fell a bit short—it’s not that they were bad, per se, but they didn’t feel particularly exciting. [One in a tight spot?] for SARDINE, [Came down hard?] for SLEETED, even [Canon part?] for LENS COVER—all were a bit shy of an aha moment. The question marks felt extraneous for the first two, and though the misdirect for Canon would have been solid, “Canon part” isn’t really a common phrase. This doesn’t really detract from the quality of all of these answers; it just makes me feel like they didn’t reach their full potential.

Onto the rest of the clues.

1a. [Onetime PBS host called the “godfather of ASMR”] — I’ve recently been on a BOB ROSS binge, and, as such, I’ve latched onto the phrase “happy accidents.” Well worth incorporating into your vocabulary.

19a. [qX3;nE7%sX9*zL4, e.g.] — My fingers got a workout just typing out this clue for STRONG PASSWORD. I’d like to imagine there’s some poor soul out there who, in doing this puzzle, had the spook of their life when they saw their actual randomized password typed out for all to see.

21a. [German pass] — Cute clue for NEIN. Thought of a pass as a ticket, a successful grade, and a sports maneuver before I thought of dissent.

52a. [Sequences that often begin yoga classes] — Not much to say here except that SUN SALUTATIONS was a nice long entry. I got it right away, which is always a good feeling in a puzzle.

60a. [Home of the Masters] — Though I knew it would be a bit of a tricky clue, I couldn’t get my mind off of museums until I realized this was AUGUSTA, home of the Masters golf tournament.

63a. [Gift that’s sold in pieces] — Nostalgic entry with LEGO SET. For some reason, I always think of Ed Sheeran’s “Lego House” when I see this phrase. Enjoy.

12d. [Get an update, maybe] — I really liked HIT REFRESH here. Two word long answers—especially verb/noun combos—tend to fall flat for me, but this was a satisfying entry.

33d. [Ball girl?] — Great misdirect for DEBUTANTE, with a clue that fits in nicely with the other sports references in the puzzle.

37d. [Nick, say] — I don’t like to get too caught up in semantics, but is “nick” really a synonym for MAR? They seem like opposites to me: a “nick” is a tiny, insignificant scratch whereas “marring” someone implies a much more permanent, grave outcome. I may be missing a definition of one word, but this seems like a poor cluing choice.

39d. [Knight work] — QUESTING is a word you don’t see often outside of video games nowadays, but is a delightfully evocative one. If you ever want to add intrigue into your daily life, categorize your errands as side quests. It makes chores far more appealing (I promise).

Not too difficult, and a solid opener to the solving week.

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22 Responses to Monday, August 2, 2021

  1. Not about today’s puzzles, but the NYT just announced that beginning next week, they’ll no longer be providing .puz files for solving in Across Lite.

    This probably won’t affect you if you prefer solving in their app anyway, but personally, I prefer not to since I’ve never wanted to feel like I had to maintain a streak or keep a record of my solving stats or any of that on their website. Is there a way to solve electronically in the NYT app but without those features?

    • GlennP says:

      I just saw this announcement and it affects me big time!!! I get puzzles from lots of sources (NYT, WaPo, WSJ, etc.) and I depend on the .puz format to bring them together in Crosswords, my app of choice. That way I don’t have to remember how 5 or 6 different interfaces work.

    • Mr. Grumpy says:

      Does unchecking “Show puzzle milestones” in setting get rid of those?

    • Gary L says:

      Unfortunate – thanks for the heads-up. This will likely be the impetus to cancel my subscription. I’ve tried the NYT app a few times, and always stumble over the navigation. Happens with the LAT and Newsday, too – so I usually avoid those puzzles. Given that I usually only do S/M/T/W out of habit rather than actual interest, it’s probably not worth maintaining the subscription.

    • Mutman says:


      Thanks for the heads up. I do not use the app, so I never would have seen the notification. I think they hid it deliberately.

      I emailed them and told them this is bullshit. They are doing no one a favor by removing this. I started regularly solving in AL when the pandemic hit and have gotten used to it. I hope (but doubt) they will reconsider.

    • marciem says:

      Thanks for the heads up, Evan. Like GaryL, this will be my impetus to cancel my subscription (no probably about it). Not that they’ll care about l’il ole me, but yah…

    • David L says:

      I was on vacation the last couple of weeks and tried solving the NYT puzzle a couple of times on my phone, using their app. It was AWFUL! Probably worse on the phone interface than on my computer monitor, but we’ll see.

      Their reason for removing the AL format is that it helps them to “improve and streamline our processes.” In other words, less work for them, more for the user.

    • PJ says:

      My guess is the change will be promoted as way to bring new and innovative ideas to solvers. I suspect it’s actually a business decision to increase the number of eyes on the ads sold on the app.

      I’ve always solved in AL. Coincidentally, I started the NYT on the app last Monday on a whim. It’s not awful and I expect I will get used to it.

      • pannonica says:


        I’m sure they thought long and hard about the risk/benefit of alienating long time solvers vs moving beyond AcrossLite’s many limitations.

    • Me says:

      On the web version, you can turn off “show timer,” but I don’t know if that just means it’s silently keeping track in the background anyway, or if it actually turns off the timer.

      I kind of like that it keeps track of the solving stats, although it would be nice if it also told you what your average was over the past year rather than only over the course of your entire subscription life. I think I’m getting better but I can’t tell that from their stats. But it’s fun to have the occasional Personal Best, although I purposely have the window set up so that I can’t see the timer while I’m doing the actual solving.

  2. Barney says:

    Count me among those who will be canceling my subscription. Their app leaves a lot to be desired (including the crap Evan mentioned). If I can’t use Across Lite, then I would rather do it on paper. And if I’m going to do that, then I would rather save a few dollars and photocopy the one in our office.

  3. Reddogg says:

    I’m with those who are unhappy with the NYT dumping of Across Lite. I’ve been doing the NYT puzzles on that app since 1995 or so. Love the app, and don’t like doing at the website. So, one more longtime subscriber bails out.

    • marciem says:

      My experience is, they don’t give a hoot. I did a chat to cancel my subscription this a.m. and I got “here’s all the wonderful things you’ll be missing” and when I said “not interested” it was “Ok… done” (paid thru December of this year, no rebates or refunds, which I didn’t want or expect so that’s fine. I just didn’t want to auto-renew when it was up.)

  4. Nina says:

    I use Across Lite to print the puzzles and solve in pen. I like their format better than the NYT format. This is a real disappointment.

    • KarenS says:

      I do the same thing. The Across Lite print format is almost always better than the NYT print format.

  5. Jenni Levy says:

    I doubt they’ll change their mind. They did once – when they first started the interactive web solving site, they announced they were going to discontinue offering the AL version and they backed off after complaints. That was before the app and all the other offerings, and before they saw other sites doing just fine with web-only crosswords. So this time I think we’re stuck. I don’t like it – I don’t have an iPad, detest solving on my phone, and don’t care for the online interface. I’m not going to print out the M-Th puzzles because that’s a lot of paper to waste for three or four minutes of solving. We have a dead-tree subscription Fri-Sunday. I’m not cancelling my subscription. Newspapers are having a hell of a time surviving right now, and if my subscription fee for this and for the NYT Cooking site helps keep them alive, I’m OK with that. We need them. I say that with the understanding that the NYT is not a progressive paper, gets it wrong a lot, and is horrifyingly tone-deaf about what life looks like outside of the rare air of wealthy Manhattan. We still need them. Plus despite the criticism in our reviews, they’re still generally really good puzzles.

    I’m not suggesting anyone who is going to cancel should change their mind. I respect the decisions people are making and I understand the distress.

  6. marciem says:

    NYT: 5a: Eke as clued, with “by”… uh no. Eke out sure, eke by only works in sportscaster’s lingo, who are not necessarily the arbiters of correct usage IMO.

  7. Bryan says:

    NYT: I’m coming late in the day to this discussion. Let me just say for the record, the NYT crossword app is perfectly fine to me. I’ve always used it on both my iPhone and iPad. I’ve never had any issues with it. It’s a perfectly fine app. It works perfectly fine. It has perfectly fine features. To each their own, I suppose. But all the talk of canceling subscriptions and the like seems overwrought to me.

    Now as to the puzzle itself… Loved it. Congrats on your solo debut, Kyra! I’m not a speed solver, but that said, I am happy to have gotten my fastest-ever solve time, not only for Monday but for all days. In fact, I flew through 90% of the fill on just the acrosses alone!

    • cwm says:

      Agreed – I’ve been a subscriber since the pandemic and have only used the NYT app with no complaints… it seems perfectly fine to me. But all this noise makes me wonder what I’m missing with AL… I guess I’ll check it out for a week and see what the fuss is all about :)

  8. John Daviso says:

    Will someone post how to opt out of our subscriptions? I have been a NYT solver for more years than I care to remember. I, too, have used the online site on occasion and, in a word, it sucks in comparison to Across Lite. Where’s Will Shortz in all of this?

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